Physical Abuse of Children

Physical Abuse Is there anything more heart warming than the picture of an adult holding a tiny baby?  Such pictures proliferate our culture. This article, the second of four on child abuse, was particularly hard to write.  Looking at pictures of children burned, beaten and murdered are hard to look at.  It is sickening to realize how far adults will go to inflict pain on children. There are many definitions of physical abuse.  The World Health Organization uses the following:  “Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of an interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.  Many jurisdictions, federally, provincially or state expand this definition a little further.  For example, the Canadian department of Justice states that “Physical abuse may consist of just one incident or it may happen repeatedly. It involves deliberately using force against a child in such a way that the child is either injured or is at risk of being injured. Physical abuse includes beating, hitting, shaking, pushing, choking, biting, burning, kicking or assaulting a child with a weapon. It also includes holding a child under water, or any other dangerous or harmful use of force or restraint. Female genital mutilation is another form of physical abuse.”  References In the US, over 1 million child abuse and/or neglect cases are substantiated annually by CPS (Child Protection Services).  170,000 children are physically abused severely enough that their cases are reported to and substantiated by CPS.  It is estimated that only 5% of cases are reported.  You do the math.  Up to 2500 children die annually from inflicted injuries with children under one year of age disproportionately affected.  Reference   The US Advisory Board reported that near fatal abuse and neglect each year leave “18,000 permanently disabled children…”  (1995 Report: A National’s Shame.) Boys are physically abused much more frequently than girls, but they are sexually abused thress times as often as boys. Physical Abuse is generally discussed in terms of the type of injury, its location and behavioural indicators that abuse has occurred.  This list of injury types is fairly common but this list was primarily sourced from hereOther sources include  Types of Injuries and their location

  1. Bruises:
    1.   primarily the face but can occur all over the body
    2.   often form regular patterns of the instrument used
    3.   bite marks
    4.   on the posterior side of the body
    5.   on infants, they’re usually on the face
    6.   from welts and cuts
  2. Burns:
    1.   Cigarette or cigar burns
    2.   Rope burns
    3.   Dry burns as from an iron
    4.   Immersion or wet burns from scalding
  3. Lacerations and Abrasions:
    1.   On any portion of an infant’s face
    2.   On gum tissue from forced feeding
    3.   External genitals
    4.   Back of arms, legs, and torso
  4. Teeth and bones
    1.   Missing or loose too early in child development
    2.   Skeletal injuries
    3.   Corner fractures of long bones (caused by twisting or pulling)
    4.   Epiphysical separation, the separation of the growth centre at the end of the bone from the bone shaft
    5.   Spiral fractures
    6.   Stiff swollen, enlarged joints
  5. Head Injuries
    1.  Absence of hair
    2.  Haemorrhaging beneath scalp (cause by hair pulling)
    3.  Subdural haematomas, from hitting or shaking
    4.  Retinal haemorrhages or detachment from shaking
    5.  Nasal, skull or jaw fracture
  6. Internal Injuries
    1.  Duodenal haematomas, caused by hitting or kicking
    2.  Rupture of interior vena cava
    3.  Peritonitis from hitting or kicking
    4.  Constant vomiting

If physical signs of abuse are not apparent, watching a child’s behavior may indicate physical abuse

  1. Overly compliant, passive; fearful of physical contact
  2. Sporadic temper tantrums
  3. Craves attention
  4. Wears weather inappropriate,  concealing clothing
  5. Reports injury by a parent or caregiver
  6. Appears frightened of parent or caregiver
  7. Demonstrates extremes in behaviour – aggressive or withdrawn
  8. Inappropriate neatness while playing or eating.
  9. Unable to offer reasonable explanation for injury; offers inconsistent explanations
  10. Lack of distress at being separated from parent or caregiver
  11. Often sleepy in class
  12. Arrives early and/or leaves late at/from school
  13. Complains that physical activity causes pain or discomfort
  14. Excessive school absence and/or lateness
  15. Overly cautious, lacks curiosity.
  16. Apprehensive when others cry
  17. Refuses to undress for gym
  18. Infants may have a vacant stare
  19. Indiscriminately seeks affection
  20. Presence of several injuries at different stages of healing

It is unfathomable to me why children suffer these injuries and pain.  What kind of person could do any of these actions to a child?  I had intended that this series would be one post a week for four weeks, but each topic is enormous.   This post is certainly long enough.  So I will follow this with more information about characteristics, treatment etc next Monday.

Again, take care of yourself after reading this.  The images are challenging.  Some of them are nauseating.  It is important you not let this cause you trauma.  And if some of this pain was in your childhood, remember that emotional abreactions may occur.  This is normal and natural to the remembering of pain.  Don’t let it frighten you – go with it and allow it to wash over you.  If necessary contact me or a mental health care professional.


About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
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21 Responses to Physical Abuse of Children

  1. It’s a tough article to read but it’s important to know and be aware to fight against. We mustn’t turn a blind eye ever!

  2. Jill James says:

    My husband is a police officer and at one time he had to take a class to recognize signs of physical child abuse. The book they gave him was horrific in details. How can anyone take the time to think of ways to hurt another, let alone a helpless child?

    • Oh Jill, I can’t imagine what our finest have to see all the time. Our city of 1 million people had more than 10,000 domestic violence calls last year. and that’s the tip of the iceberg of the violence happening in our homes. Give your hubby a hug for me and thank him for his service.

  3. It is difficult to understand people who treat children this way. Gosh, Louise, you must have an enormously challenging job. I applaud your committment to help people. We need more like you around.

    • I don’t understand it and I don’t think there’s ever an excuse for it. I applaud the people who come for help – knowing that a better different way is possible. Truly it’s uplifting

  4. Nonna Conroy says:

    Abuse of either a child or an adult is a vicious cycle. Until we are able to educate and counsel the offenders as to why they behave the way they do the cycle will continue. I have been a victim of child abuse and vowed to myself not to continue the cycle. Both my parents were subjected to child abuse growing up and for whatever reasons could not find the strength to stop the cycle. I knew I didn’t like how I felt about myself from the abuse and made a promise I would never want my children to have those same feelings. I have three beautiful, happy children which I have never abused and have been blessed with five beautiful, happy grandchildren. I am a success story – but unfortunately there aren’t a large enough number of us to make a difference.

    • Nonna, thank you for stopping by and sharing your story. I too am a survivor and have a similar story of recovery as you. It took lots of work and therapy and time but it has been worth it. Right on for you and me. and we are a small minority

  5. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to write this series. That picture of the little girl with the bruised face . . . I just want to shelter her from whoever did that to her.

    • Marcy, it has been difficult. But I work with adults who survived this kind of abuse – and they deserve to be heard. So many of them want more for their lives, so I’ve decided to write their stories and help all of us learn about the realities going on around us.

  6. Wow Louise, I can’t imagine what you deal with on a daily basis. It sickens my heart to think of it, let alone see it. Abuse is rampant everywhere. And is horrifying when we see or learn of it, yet it’s the unseen abuse that slips through the cracks. The emotional abuse that children and adults suffer from can leave a deeper scar. Things are just so messed up Louise. You are a very strong person for being able to deal with this. May the force be with you my dear friend. 🙂

    • I decided a long time ago that I can’t help the children in these circumstances except by being aware and reporting my fears. But I can help the adults who have survived. and in the process end the cycle for other children. It’s the best I can do.

      and yes, it is sickening.

  7. That these things happen – and more often than we care to think – is incomprehensible. There’s a guy in my area was just convicted of numerous sex charges against children, several against one child that went on for six years. He’s getting put away for life. My husband says these guys should be tossed into general population, the other inmates informed of what they’re in for, and then left alone. Sounds like a suitable punishment to me!

    • The problem is that it is highly likely that this guy was the victim of abuse as a child and he’s got his own problems. After having worked with abusers, you find most of them have horrific backgrounds. Nothing excuses what they do, I merely point out they’re not normal. And while I understand your feelings, it would not solve anything.

  8. I have to agree. It is too horrible to contemplate and yet it happens all the time. It is a blight on society and we all need to take a stand.

  9. As a former child protection worker I am all too aware of what others don’t even want to contemplate. Only by taking the risk to talk about abuse can we uncover it. And only by supporting protective agencies when children are legitimately removed can we hope to remedy the problem.

  10. Reblogged this on Law Office of Marsha Graham and commented:
    This is not legal commentary. Not all commentary which is on-point is necessary legal in origin. Ms. Behiel is a therapist who deals with the ramifications of childhood abuse issues. Her information on types of injuries and locations they can be found on children is current and applicable in today’s world. The figures of abuse given are Canadian, so the numbers are far higher in the US.

    It does not address emotional abuse, but you can find information on that in her blog, in the section dealing with alcoholic and dysfunctional families and the general types personalities created in children. I highly recommend her blog for those interested in finding out more about the human condition.

    Today you might see some warning signs that remind you of a child you know. Pay attention. The life you save from a living hell might belong to that youngster. Parents can be helped. Lives can be mended. Child Protection Agencies can make changes for endangered children.

    People don’t like to think about this happening. And yet in the latest year in which I can find statistics, (2009) over 1,770 children were reported to have died of neglect and abuse. Due my background in the field, I believe that number could be safely doubled and not reach the full number of our children who die from abuse or neglect. If that seems terrifying (and it should) here is a link to Child Welfare information complied by the US government.

    Save our children. They are our future.

  11. Pingback: 4 Stages of Healing from Childhood Abuse | Louise Behiel

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